Irving’s 50 points not enough in Nets debut
Kyrie Irving dazzled in his Brooklyn debut, but his 50 points weren’t enough as the Nets fell 127-126 in overtime to the Minnesota Timberwolves in their NBA season-opener.
“Outstanding,” was the verdict of Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. “Great debut for him.”
Irving, whose arrival from the Boston Celtics as a free agent helped stamp the Nets as contenders this season, opened the night with an emotional address to fans in Brooklyn — not far from where he grew up in New Jersey.
“I’m eternally grateful to be here, be back home in front of you guys with my teammates,” Irving said, choking up at one point.
But it was the Timberwolves who jumped out to the faster start, leading by as many as 18 in the second quarter.
Then came Irving, who scored 13 points in the fourth quarter. His step-back three put Brooklyn up 115-112 with 1:16 left in regulation, but Karl Anthony Towns — who led Minnesota with 36 points and 14 rebounds — answered with a three-pointer as they went to overtime.
They traded the lead five times in the extra period, two driving baskets from Andrew Wiggins giving the Timberwolves a 127-124 lead.
Irving sank two free throws, but with the ball in his hands for a potential game-winner he lost his balance, recovered and kept the play alive but missed the final shot.
Irving finished without a turnover and broke the previous record of 47 for most points by a player in his first game with an NBA team.
“It’s a great starting point,” Irving said. “Obviously, you wanted to come out and get a win in front of our home crowd, but we’ve got another chance on Friday.”
The Celtics’ post-Irving life began with a 93-107 loss to the 76ers in Philadelphia.
Ben Simmons, who opted not to play for Australia in the World Cup to focus on his preparations for the season, led the Sixers with 24 points, eight rebounds and nine assists.
Five 76ers in double figures included Joel Embiid, who took a beating on the way to 15 points and 13 rebounds.
The Cameroonian center was left with a bloodied face when he took an inadvertent elbow from Jaylen Brown in the third quarter and hit the court hard chasing a loose ball in the same period.
Embiid was also whistled for a flagrant in the foul-strewn contest in which neither of the expected Eastern Conference contenders wanted to give an inch.
Al Horford added 16 points for Philadelphia against the team he’d played for the past three seasons.
Gordon Hayward led the Celtics with 25 points. Jayson Tatum had 21 and Kemba Walker, making his Celtics debut, added 12.
“I think everybody defensively was solid,” Simmons said. “Everybody stayed together and everybody was playing physical ball. That’s who we want to be known as, a physical team.”
– Washington shines in Charlotte –
Charlotte rookie PJ Washington, the 12th overall pick in the draft in June, made a splashy debut, scoring 27 points to help the Hornets to a nail-bitting 126-125 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
Hornets coach James Borrego gave Washington the start in his first NBA game, saying he’d seen in the pre-season that the first-year player isn’t afraid of the big moment.
Washington justified that faith, making his first three shots — all from three-point range.
He made seven of 11 from three-point range — breaking the record of five three-pointers in an NBA debut held by Jake Layman and Donyell Marshall.
In Dallas, reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis got their new partnership off to a quick start, combining to score 57 points to lead the Mavericks to a 108-100 victory over the Washington Wizards.
Porzingis, acquired in a trade with the New York Knicks in January when he was still recovering from left knee surgery, played his first game in 20 months.
Bradley Beal scored 19 points to lead the Wizards. Rookie Rui Hachimura, the first Japanese player to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft, scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his debut.